by David Weber
Every time I’ve gotten into trouble in my life, it’s been because someone convinced me it was the ‘right thing to do.’
This career retrospective collection covers a range of speculative fiction including some decently hard science fiction, some military fantasy and some historical fiction. It’s a massive book with a quarter of a million words but only 9 stories, and only the first and the last are short. Settle in and take your time. No matter what you paid, this book is worth it.
A full story list with simple descriptions is below, but there are a few here that need special attention:
A Beautiful Friendship – Half of this story is 11-year-old Stephanie and her two parents, among the first settlers of a new world, about to discover a sentient species living in the forest. The other half is the People, the sentient species, studying humans unnoticed. Climbs Quickly and Stephanie meet and a bond is formed between the two on first contact.
With a strong sense of wonder but also with themes familiar to us all, this is an outstanding story of compassion and would easily be the best story in nearly any collection—it’s the full 5 stars, even for those who are stingy with ratings. But it just so happens there’s an upcoming story that’s as good as it gets, so it would be nice to have a rating system that could crank to 11.
Ms. Midshipwoman Harrington – Fresh out of the academy, young Honor Harrington is on her “snotty” cruise, her first real test as a spacer in the Navy, before she will finally be welcomed as an officer. She’ll be tested by fire, far beyond what anyone could have expected on the voyage. As the captain says,“no plan survives contact with the enemy.”
Honor Harrington is David Weber’s greatest creation, his most beloved character, and it appears she’s starred in at least 14 novels. The author states in his introduction that he does not want to write any prequel novels, citing his style has developed over time and he doesn’t want to jar the chronological reader, but this novella was a way for him to develop Honor’s history without a full-blown novel.
Miles to Go – This is it. This one will knock you over.
Merrit is dispatched to a sparsely inhabited planet where he learns the government’s files are woefully out of date and the entire planet has basically been lost under the blanket of bureaucracy for a century. He’s tasked with the recovery of an old Bolo.
All Bolos, gigantic, nearly indestructible, artificially intelligent battle-tanks, have had most of their capabilities crippled by design unless engaged in combat as protective measures for their human masters. This particular Bolo, 80 years out of date, has undergone special modifications at the hands of her deceased programmer, unlocking her intelligence.
Meanwhile, certain unscrupulous, enterprising individuals have realized the planet will be worth a boatload of money relating to trade routes after an upcoming change in space travel and have launched plans to kill everyone on the surface to pave the way for their profits. An invasion is launched against an unsuspecting world.
Most surprising here in this novella is the emotional relationship developing between the Bolo named Nike and Merrit—a man and his war machine, reading poetry together. A particularly moving scene occurs when the machine, on a training exercise, encounters a large cat-lizard. The decisions she makes along with her rationalizations when questioned by Merrit go a long way in establishing a rich, intelligent, empathetic character.
There are a few complicated sections with some hard science fiction that’s not always easy to follow, but the intricate data-flow is necessary to contrast personality with programming. Most important, the story has a huge heart. When it’s ending and the final words are rolling, you will clench your fist, you will stand, and you will cheer.
Science fiction, fantasy or horror, this novella is what speculative fiction is all about—highest marks.
Subterranean Press has really assembled something special in this 600 page behemoth. The kind of fiction David Weber presents here shines a bright light, and should sit proudly next to your all-time favorites.
There’s a whole, weird, cyberpunk world ahead of us, and sooner or later we’ll turn this planet into Cybertron if we can survive long enough. But survival continues to be a problem, and it’s getting worse, as is to be expected when you have a bunch of power mad, libido driven, barely conscious apes running amok in nuclear facilities with blinking red end-of-the-world buttons in every office. Nevertheless, this kind of high concept, emotionally charged speculative fiction is encouraging. We can do this.